Friday, August 17, 2007


This is chapter two of my second novel, We Danced to Ray Charles. The protag tries to figure out life, women and himself. What follows reflects changes suggested by Robert Flynn. As always, any input would be greatly appreciated. Reading the two previous posts: Prologue and The Dancers is advised.

Bayou Bill


by Bill Fullerton

The main cemetery in Pinefield was a large, landscaped, park-like area. The grandfather Mark had loved so much was there. So was the grandmother he never knew and even some great-grandparents. A nearby bench was his thinking spot. He headed that way.

But it was a date night. The cemetery’s secluded far-side served as the town’s leading lover’s lane. So much for being alone to think. Besides, hunger called. The one place in town still open, the all-night Hilltop Café Motel and Truck Stop.

He parked near the café’s front door, got out, and heard the insistent wail of approaching sirens. Out on the main highway, three Sheriff’s Department cars raced by heading toward town with their lights flashing. He wondered what all the excitement was about, then shrugged and headed for the glass door with its sun-faded sign that proclaimed,


He’d seen that sign, and untold numbers like it, many times during his twenty-one years on earth. Most went unnoticed—which he preferred. But tonight, something made him stop and study the old sign. It had once been bright and defiant. Now, like the hatred it represented, it was fading but still around.

Mark shook his head, as if trying to clear his mind of the past, then opened the door and stepped into the over air-conditioned, neon-lit café. A few couples were sitting in the back booths. None looked familiar. Out-of-town kids, he guessed. A lot of them stopped in after dates to check each other out for telltale signs of drive-in passion. After a quick burger, they’d rush home to beat the girl’s midnight curfew.

A familiar figure stood at the business end of the Hilltop’s pinball machine, The Blushing Beauty. By even the most tolerant of standards David Clyde Wright was a strange life form. By Pinefield standards he was way off the scale. His more distinctive features included long, stringy hair, and the beginnings of a beer gut. He also had a goofy, don’t-give-a-damn smile some girls insisted was cute.

Friends and law enforcement officers alike called him, D.C. Both groups agreed he was every bit as odd as he looked. Among other things he was a self-destructive, semi-alcoholic, anti-establishment free spirit.

D.C. was smart, but in an odd, D.C. sort of way. After being expelled from high school for repeated violations of most school codes, he got his equivalence diploma before the rest of his class graduated. Unlike his former classmates, he read Dylan Thomas and William Faulkner because he liked them.

Everyone in town knew he operated the printing press for his family’s weekly paper, “The Standard.” But few suspected he wrote many of the articles which appeared under his father’s by-line. Mark knew. By some strange amalgam of interests, they were long-time friends. And while total opposites, they could share certain secrets and count on one another for candid advice.

Unlike his anti-social friend, Mark was a big, easy-going guy. He’d been an athlete in high school. Back then he kept his hair short. Now it was a well-barbered, collar length. And while D.C. took the concept of casual clothing to an extreme, Mark dressed like the fraternity member he was. However, both men liked sports, Bob Dylan, and William Faulkner.

At the counter, Mark asked for two burgers and a large order of curly fries. The sour-faced, older woman D.C. had nicknamed, “Winona, the Woeful Waitress,” took his order in silence. After checking his hair in the mirror next to the “George Wallace for President” poster, he walked over and stood beside the machine. While a new ball was being put into play, he asked, “So what’s a guy like you doing in a nice place like this?”

Bells rang and lights flashed. D.C. kept his gaze focused on the shiny, darting, steel ball. “Getting my scrawny ass whipped by this damn machine.” As if to validate his remark, the ball ricocheted off a bumper at an unexpected angle, sped past the outstretched flippers, and disappeared from sight.

A short but emphatic string of obscenities followed, punctuated by D.C. slamming his palms against The Blushing Beauty. It responded to this assault by flashing, “TILT” and ending the game. Like two mourners viewing the body of someone who died owing them money, they pondered the treacherous machine’s dimmed lights. It was D.C. who broke the unnatural silence. “You know, it could be worse. I could be Chinese.”

“I’m going to hate myself for asking,” said Mark. “But, how do you figure that?”

“Just think, Cahill. There’s about a billion of them over there. And not one of those poor, thirsty, commie devils has a single Budweiser to drink.”

“Well, that does put your loss in a different perspective.”

His point made, D.C. turned his head and looked at Mark. “I wondered when you’d show up. Want a beer?”

“Why’d you think I’d come in here? And yes, I’d like a beer. I’ll even contribute the two burgers and curly fries I’ve got coming.”

“Cold beer and greasy fries. God is indeed good to the young and beautiful,” said D.C. his voice rich with solemn irreverence. “You had to show. Your head would be too screwed up from dancing with Bebe Boudreaux to go home.”

They’d been drifting over toward the worn counter. Now they sat on plastic covered, backless stools and waited for Mark’s order. “And you knew I’d danced with her because…?”

“Because who do you think took over the hi-fi when he saw you talking with Bebe and played all those slow Ray Charles songs? You owe me big time, Cahill.”

“It’s a debt I’m sure you’ll never let me forget. Not after you learn we’re going out next weekend.”

D.C. stopped lighting a cigarette to give Mark a look of genuine surprise. “A date? Damn son, you’re a fast worker.”

“With you as disc jockey, how could I fail?”

“So true. By the way, I didn’t see Amy at the dance. Is she still sick as the proverbial heaving hyena?”

Mark nodded. “Yep. But I called over there before I left for the dance. Her dad said she’s on the mend.”

“What do you think is gonna happen when she finds out about you and Bebe? Now I know you and Amy are just good buddies and all that jazz. But the last time I checked, she and Bebe weren’t what you’d call a mutual admiration society.”

“I’ve quit trying to figure out Amy Marshall. I suppose she may give me a hard time. But all we’re talking about here is one date. So she’s not going to care, at least not that much.”

D.C. reached for an ashtray. “Well, what about old buddy Bob and that time in high school when he asked Bebe to the prom? Best I recall, instead of just saying no, she called him everything but a one-legged son-of-a-bitch. And then there’s Willie, one helluva great guy, especially for a preacher’s kid, who just happens to be black. I suppose you know Bebe’s old man’s now the boss of our local sheet-heads.”

“That’s bullshit. He’s Cajun. They don’t join the Klan, much less become honchos. As for Bob, he’s so wrapped up with the luscious Libby I doubt he’ll even notice. And Willie, well, we’ve been friends about forever, give or take a day or two. I should be okay with him.”

“All right. But what about if you and Bebe click and go on more dates?”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“But what if it does? Outside of maybe being a tad envious, I don’t give a shit. But what if you had to choose between Amy, Bob, Willie, and her?”

The arrival of Mark’s order saved him from dealing with that uncomfortable question. A few minutes later they were in D.C.’s old GMC pick-up, drinking beer and eating curly fries while driving past the modern, soulless structure that served as both parish courthouse and jail.

As was his long-standing custom, D.C. spit out the window in the general direction of the courthouse. “Since you were sitting with Skeeter, I suppose you heard that Connie Jackson had a baby girl?”

Mark nodded. Connie’s husband, Tommy Jackson, was in Vietnam. A gifted, all-state, running back, he’d married Connie right after graduation and gone to college on a football scholarship where he started on the freshman team. But then he surprised everyone by dropping out and joining the Marines.

“I’ll never understand why T.J. pulled that stunt,” said Mark. “How long before he’ll get to see his baby?”

“And the baby’s good-looking mother,” said D.C.. “But to answer your question, over three months.”

The topics of conversation moved onto life, love, and Mark’s long-standing obsession with Bebe Boudreaux. “I was glad to help,” said D.C., “you know, by playing those records and all. But I’ve never understood why you’re so hung-up on that little coon-ass. Granted, she’s sexy as hell. I mean, I’d nail her for a quarter even if she didn’t pay me.”

Both grinned at his old joke, then D.C. shook his head, “But, man, you know the drill, ‘If they will, screw ‘em. If they won’t, screw ‘em.’ But it’s Bebe whose been screwing you over since the day she first came dragging into town. So why this fascination with her?”

They headed out of town in silence. Mark finished his beer and, in compliance with local, male tradition, tossed the bottle at a passing speed limit sign. He missed. “It’s like this. All my life I’ve been a nice guy. It’s just the way I am. I’m the peacemaker, the polite type mothers always like, a team player, a real competitor. But I’m also the one who’s always the runner-up. I might win a sportsmanship trophy or get ‘honorable mention’ but I never, ever, win it all.”

“Don’t give me that shit. You’ve won a lot of things.”

“Like what? Okay, maybe there has been one or two. But I’m talking about feelings as much as reality. And I’ve always felt like an also-ran in a world of winners. Just think about it, Willie won a state title in high school and now plays for Grambling. Bob was All-District before blowing his knee out, and don’t forget, he dates the luscious Libby.”

D.C. crossed himself and muttered, “Blessed be her name.”

Mark ignored this and continued the litany of his friend’s accomplishments. “Amy was a cheerleader, district MVP in basketball, and homecoming queen—twice. And she’s so damn good-looking. I swear it scares a lot of guys off. And then there’s her big brother, Walt. How’d you like to have ‘all-everything Walt’ for a role model? Don’t get me wrong. He’s been like the big brother I never had. He taught me everything from how to shoot a rifle to the facts of life. But there’s no way in hell anyone can ever match his style. Much less all the stuff he’s done. And now folks say he’s a war hero.”

Mark took a cigarette from the pack D.C. had laid on the seat and pushed in the lighter. “Did you know my dad was a Golden Gloves champ, you know, boxing?”

There was a note of admiration in D.C.’s, “No shit?”

“No shit,” said Mark. “Of course, the best I could ever do was honorable mention all-district in football. My mother was a homecoming queen. And we both know I’m never going to Hollywood with my looks. It’s like I got their worst features.”

Mark paused to light his cigarette. “Oh, you’re gonna love this one,” he said, shoving the lighter back into place. “Last summer, I was visiting some of mother’s relatives in Mississippi. One of my cousins, a real doll, wasn’t able to get me a last minute date. She gave me this apologetic look. Then she said I wasn’t that bad looking. The thing was, girls might give a guy like me a second look, but never a third.”

D.C. laughed. “If either of us has to count on our looks for a meal ticket, we’ll starve.”

“Speak for yourself, oh, skinny-assed one,” said Mark. Then his smile went away. “The thing is, Bebe’s just flat-out turned me on ever since junior high. But if there’s anything more to my wanting her than just hormones, it’s that for me, she’s the ultimate prize, the blue ribbon, the first place trophy I never won. Because I promise you, when she agreed to a date, it made me feel like a real winner.”

As they drove back into Pinefield, Mark flipped his half-finished cigarette out the window. “There’s one other thing. But this is just between you and me. Okay?”

“Lay it on me, big guy.”

“Just before finals, some of us threw a party on the levee. And, well, there was this girl, we were friends, but that’s all. She’s the type normal guys don’t stand a chance with. You know what I mean?”

D.C. nodded. “You’re talking high-class, drop-dead gorgeous, running around baying at the moon, beautiful.”

“You got it. Anyway, somehow we wound up making out. Nothing more, sad to say. But now I’ve got it bad for her, real bad. The thing is, every time we meet she acts like nothing happened. It’s pretty obvious I’m still just a friend to her. And that means if I try anything, odds are about a million to one all I’ll do is screw-up our friendship. I mean, there’s no hope in hell. She’s so far out of my league it’s not funny. So it makes more sense to try getting her out of my mind. And who better to help a guy do that, than Bebe Boudreaux?”

“That makes sense. Just one question.”

“What’s that?”

“Is Amy a good kisser?”

“She’s incredi--.” Mark caught himself and glared at D.C.. “Who did you say? I mean if it was Amy, you’re so full of shit you, uh….”

The emotion drained from his voice and the words trailed off as his anger turned to disgust at himself. “You always could read me like a damn book. You’re right. She was ripped and vulnerable and it’ll never, ever, happen again.”

They drove back to the Hilltop in silence. In the parking lot, D.C. stopped Mark from getting out. “Look, I promised to keep this between us and I will. But, you know, it’s hard to believe I feel sorry for someone who’s made out with Amy Marshall and has a date lined up with Bebe Boudreaux.”

D.C. draped his arms over the steering wheel. The red glow of his cigarette reflected on the cracked windshield. Mark was used to these sudden meditations, and sat back to wait.

With a sigh, D.C. looked over. “But after knowing Amy all your life, you go and fall for her just when Bebe drops in on the act. You didn’t ask for advice, but in my opinion you should tell Bebe to hit the road and then take your best shot with Amy. But you won’t do that. You’re too hung up on Bebe and too afraid of losing Amy. Besides, we both know you’re a nice guy who was born to compromise.”

Mark smiled. D.C. didn’t. “The problem is you could end up losing ‘em both, plus a bunch of friends and, what the hell, toss in your self-respect just for good measure. So I feel sorry for you. No shit, I do. ‘Cause unless you change your ways, something tells me you’re in for a very interesting summer.”

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, August 16, 2007


This is adapted from the opening section of a chapter in my novel, We Danced to Ray Charles, a 92,000 word, coming-of-age, mainstream love story. The central plot is a love triangle, set against a background of growing racial tension and social change in a small southern town in the summer of 1968.

Anyone wishing to read the novel on-line should e-mail me for the secret codewords to gain admittance into the mystic, password protected blog wherein it resides.

All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Bayou Bill


The Seducers
by Bill Fullerton

Velma Meeks sat enthroned at one end of the worn couch in her messy, haphazardly furnished living room. She lit a fresh cigarette with her old one, made a token attempt at crushing the butt, then left the still smoldering stub in the overflowing ashtray. Taking a deep drag, she leaned back and let the smoke come out in a long, thin stream. With her smoking chores completed, she propped her bare feet on a Sears catalog spread open on the crowded coffee table and prepared to wait for Bebe's return.

Waiting in patient silence was not her style, however. She turned her head toward the empty doorway to the kitchen. "You know it's hard for me to believe you're this screwed-up. You've always been so self-confident. Now, it's like you don't know whether to shit or go blind."

Bebe came back from the tiny kitchen carrying a Tab and a package of peanut butter crackers. "It's not that bad, really. I've just got this feeling, call it a hunch, that something's not right and I don't know why or what to do about it."

She reclaimed her spot at the other end of the sofa and found a place on the coffee table for the bottle. "The thing is, Mark and I went out a couple of times last weekend. One was a real date. On the other we just went swimming. Both times he seemed, well, sort of distracted. Like, it was nice to be with me, but it was no big deal, either."

"You think maybe he's just jealous and pouting because you went out with Darrell Ray?"

Bebe shrugged and reached for her own cigarettes. "Could be. That's what I'd hoped for. But now I'm not sure. He's never even asked about what I did while he was gone. At first, I figured it was because somebody told him about my dating Darrell Ray and, like you say, he was pouting. But now, I'm beginning to think he just doesn't care."

"I doubt it," said Velma, leaning forward to see if the new coat of bright red polish on her toenails was dry. "Maybe he's just trying to act cool. But judging from what you've told me, I doubt that, too."

Bebe squirmed in her seat. "Oh, did you hear about the crap he pulled this morning?”

Velma shook her head. “Not a word. What happened?”

“Seems he and Amy Marshall showed up at the courthouse with Willie, that nigger friend of theirs, and some nigger gal no one recognized. They talked about being old friends and wanting to register to vote together. Well, the nigger girl didn't, but the rest of 'em did."

"What happened? Was there any trouble?"

"Not a bit." Bebe sounded disgusted. "Sissy Bullock phoned right after they left and told me all about it. According to her, Mac Stringer, she called him an old fart, vanished and nobody could find the Sheriff. Seems like everybody knew what was going to happen, everybody except Sissy and me. What's more, that creepy D.C. Wright was there taking pictures. I guess for next week's paper."

"Mark didn't say anything to you about this?"

"Well, yeah, he kinda did. But he didn't make a big deal out of it. And to tell you the truth, I wasn't paying much attention. Like I said, he was acting so weird. I thought he was talking about politics or just his registering to vote."

There was a brief lull as both women smoked and pondered the situation. Velma sat up and started rummaging around on the coffee table. "You haven't seen my nail file have you?" She paused and looked over at Bebe. "You know, I just had a thought. Was he that way, you know, distracted like, when he picked you up? What I'm asking is, did something happen during the date that might have caused this?"

"Well, he seemed all right at first, I think." Bebe picked the file off the floor and handed it to Velma. "But I was carrying on, doing a lot of the talking. You know, trying to act like I was interested in what he’d done down in Baton Rouge. So I'm not sure. The one thing that was different from any of our other dates was those two damn niggers almost running us off the road."

Velma's eyes widened. "When did that happen?"

"On the way to the Catfish House. It was on that stretch of road with all those hills and curves. We were coming around a really long curve when this over-loaded pulpwood truck with two big niggers in it started coming right at us. I mean they were way over on our side of the road.”

“Damn. What’d y’all do?”

“Mark managed to dodge 'em, somehow. But it was close. I tell you, it just about scared me to death. I flat-out freaked and started yellin' that he should chase those niggers down and teach 'em a lesson. Then I noticed him giving me a kind of funny look and something told me I better shut up. He shook his head and said he'd rather spend his time wrestling with me than those pulpwood haulers."

Velma hooted. "You got to give him credit for coming up with a good line. I just wish you'd noticed how he was acting before then. But I doubt if it matters. I can't see something like that changing how he feels about you. Do you think something might have happened while he was in Baton Rouge, you know, with Amy?"

"I've been wondering the same thing. But I don't think so. Still, with her anything, and I do mean anything, is possible."

"I suppose there could be more going on between them than we first figured. They might of gotten carried away, you know, at one of those parties he told you about. If that happened, maybe he's feeling guilty and all."

Before Bebe could respond, Velma continued, "And while we're on the subject of getting carried away, I take it you two still haven't done the dirty deed?"

"Not yet. The timing just hasn't felt right.” Bebe winked at Velma. "Why do you think I went out with Darrell Ray?"

They both giggled, then Velma said, "Well, honey, maybe he's just getting tired of waiting for some action. Look, even if that's not the main problem, I promise you, a little back-seat boogie session will get you his undivided attention."

Bebe hoped she didn't come off sounding like a kid to her older friend. "You're right, of course. But what if the problem’s something else? Isn't there a chance doing that too soon could make things even worse?"

After lighting another Parliament, Velma said, "Not if you play it right. How you handle a guy after you do it the first time is super important. Nothing personal, but whatever you do, don't try pulling your roommate's old rejuvenating virgin stunt or, even worse, pretend it's your first time. It's 1968, for God's sake. You know better, I know better, odds are even Mark knows better. After all, he's bound to have learned something in college."

Bebe had to grin. "At least a little something."

"The trick is," Velma continued, "to act just a little confused and vulnerable, like it was so incredible you feel all shook up. Instead of saying you've never done it before, you say you've never 'felt' like this before. It's a sneaky little way of suggesting that, even if there might have been one or two others, he's the best."

Down at the other end of the couch, Bebe pretended she was taking notes. "Act confused and say, 'felt.' Is that right, Professor Meeks?"

"You got it. That way he'll get all full of himself and want to be your knight in shining armor and go around saving your honor—for himself, of course. Once he's your big, brave protector, you start hinting around about how it might be nice to have some sort of casual, just for the summer type, understanding. Maybe say something about how that way you'd have a good excuse to say no when guys like Darrell Ray ask you out."

"Velma, you won't do. Does any guy ever have a chance around you?"

"Not if I have my way, honey. They never have and never will. Just ask poor Buddy."

"So you think it's time I got it on with Mark?"

"A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do," said Velma. "And just between you and me and the walls, I've heard some girls say it’s kinda fun."

Bebe grinned, then checked her watch and stood. "I've gotta scoot. But do you remember that joke, the one you said you told Buddy, about how you were giving up sex because it was too messy, too much work, and the position was ridiculous?"

"Oh, yeah. I had Buddy going for a minute. You should've seen his face."

"Well, to tell you the truth, that's pretty much how I really do feel. I love everything leading up to it. You know, the flirting and the dates and even making out. And there are times when I do get a little turned on and really want the guy. That’s when doing it can be fun, at least for me. But most of the time, it seems a lot more about his wants and needs than my feelings. Still, I suppose if it has to be done, it has to be done."

"That's the spirit, girl.”

"Because I promise you," continued Bebe, in a voice that left no doubt about her sincerity, "there's no way in hell I'm going to let anyone, most of all Amy Marshall, keep me from winning this time."

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

CROSSED UP - short story

Texas author Sylvia Dickey Smith was kind enough to interview me on her blog and then compounded her crime by including a 500 word (flash fiction) story of mine "Short For Beelzebub" among all the good stuff on her web site

That story first showed up among the other Bilge here and on USADeepSouth a couple years ago in a much longer (2000 word) version titled, Crossed Up. That insult to English letters was based on a chapter from my second novel, We Danced To Ray Charles.

For those into comparing and contrasting, not to mention heavy pain, here is the 2000 word version. After reading it, check out the smaller version on Sylvia's blog and see if you don't agree that, when it comes to my writing, less is best.


Inspired by Mel Brooks making fun of Nazis in, The Producers, I decided to try something similar with the help of three, less than expert, inchoate Klansmen.

Bayou Bill


by Bill Fullerton

Delmar Bullock was not impressed. The three young ‘uns standing just inside the door to his storage shed didn’t seem good for much, most of all a Klan job.

At first, they'd tried to act cocky, like this was no big deal. But none of ‘em said a word after seeing the cross he put together that afternoon. He wondered why Jack Boudreaux, who always worried about security leaks, picked these three boys to do a job one real man could finish in a minute or two.

The young ‘uns consisted of Darrell Ray Sims, his cousin Dickie Lee James, and Dickie Lee’s shadow, Floyd Haskins. In fact, Boudreaux hadn’t spoken to anyone but Darrell Ray about the job. But he hadn’t thought to say anything about security leaks or that it was supposed to be a one-man operation.

So Darrell Ray had brought Dickie Lee and Floyd because he didn’t want to do the job alone. In fact, he didn’t want to do it, period.

It wasn’t that he was afraid, of course. And he sure as hell didn’t like niggers. At least not the uppity ones or those mixed-breed agitators Mr. Jack was always going on about. It was just that he didn’t have anything personal against Frank Williams.

A few years after his father ran off, Darrell Ray’s big brother, “Wheeler,” fell through one of those raggedy-assed scaffolds at Imperial Paper. He died the next day. Williams was the one lawyer in the parish willing to handle their case against the company. And according to his mother, when they won, Williams just took his expenses from the settlement instead of the amount they’d agreed on. The odd thing was he made her promise not to tell anyone.

That’s why Darrell Ray always felt he and his family were kinda beholding to Williams. In fact, he sort of liked the guy, even though that candy-assed Mark Cahill was his nephew.

But then Bebe turned him down to go out with Cahill. So now he kinda had to do this for, well, for her daddy, for Mr. Jack. Still, if he was going haul around some cross, he didn’t want it to be in his truck. For one thing, that new, bright yellow paint job made it easy to recognize. And it was just natural not to want any cross or post-hole digger or whatever messing up that expensive finish.

In addition to saving his paint job, Darrell Ray figured it’d be quicker and safer if he had a little assistance. Dickie Lee was about half-ass loco anyway, so it didn’t take much to get both his help and the use of his old GMC truck. The only problem was having him for a partner meant Floyd Haskins tagging along. But that couldn’t be helped.

Bullock acted kinda putout when they all showed up to get the cross and the other stuff. Now his mood seemed even worse as he re-explained how things worked. “You’ve got everything here you need. I built this here cross small enough to hide in the bed of a pick-up. There won’t be any trouble keeping it out of sight.

“Once you get to where you’re going, lay the cross flat on the ground and pour on all the diesel I’ve given you.” He held up a five-gallon can. “That way the wrapping can get good and soaked while you’re digging the hole. Now, unless the soil’s real loose or sandy, the hole don’t have to be much more’n a foot or so deep. This thing’s not supposed to be around very long.” Something resembling a grin creased Bullock’s face.

“After you stick the cross in the hole, be sure to pack enough dirt in around the base so it don’t lean. You want it to stay upright. Looks better that way and makes it last longer, too. Then douse on this gasoline. I put you some in here.” He lifted a long neck beer bottle that was almost hidden by his massive hand. “All you gotta do then is light ‘er up, and git. Be sure to take along everything you brung. Don’t leave no evidence. Most of all, don’t hang around to watch your handiwork, either. Understand?”

They all nodded. Darrell Ray thanked him for going to all the trouble. Then he helped Floyd and Dickie Lee haul everything out to the truck. Ahead of them lay their first experience with cross burning.

The plan called for picking up the material around eight and finishing the job by ten. According to Mr. Jack, Frank Williams and his wife never got back from their Saturday night running around before eleven. That meant there should be plenty of time to spare. Only no one figured on the condition of Dickie Lee’s old pick-up, or that, it being his truck, he’d insist on driving, or on his lousy sense of direction.

None of them had been out to Bullock’s place before. It was an old, frame house tucked away at the end of a long gravel road in the middle of nowhere. They arrived in the dim light of late evening. By the time they left, it was pitch dark.

Within minutes, they’d taken the first of many wrong turns. This was followed by an extended period spent driving in various directions while arguing about which way to turn next and who was at fault. They made it back to the main highway just in time for a back tire to go flat. That’s why it was way after ten before they reached their target.

Thanks to Dickie Lee’s constant reminders about them being in his truck, the others agreed he could act as lookout and getaway driver. That meant Darrell Ray was stuck with Floyd as a helper.

They stopped in the shadow of some pecan tress across the street from the Williams’ one story, brick house. Dickie Lee stayed behind the wheel with the motor idling; his primary contribution being to urge Darrell Ray and Floyd to, “Get a move on.” The moment they got the gear, he drove off to wait up the hill at the intersection where he could spot any approaching cars.

The house was located on the edge of the town’s old, upscale neighborhood. Like all the residential areas in Pinefield, it was quiet. Darrell Ray was relieved there were no lights on inside. He figured it was about time something went right on this operation. A shallow ditch, a line of low hedge, and a fair-sized front yard separated the house from the asphalt road.

They stumbled across the ditch, tripped over the hedge, and soon found what looked like a good spot. As instructed, they lay the cross flat on the ground and then poured on the diesel. Darrell Ray made no move for the post-hole digger, so Floyd started on the hole. He barely had time to break a sweat before the blade hit a large, underground pipe.

That meant more lost time while they argued in loud whispers about where to try next, then moved over to the new spot, and Floyd got back to work. It proved to be prime digging soil however, and the hole was soon finished. That’s when they realized their gloves were back in the truck. That meant wrestling a messy, diesel soaked cross with bare hands. The thought did not appeal to the fastidious Darrell Ray, not one bit.

Back when they started working on the first hole, a dog inside the house began barking. Another one in the backyard soon joined. Mr. Jack had said there would be an inside dog, and that there might be one in a backyard pen. So it wasn’t the dogs, but the thought the barking might attract attention which motivated them to make a modest increase in the pace of their work.

This lack of urgency was a mistake. The barking dog in back was Belle, short for Beelzebub. She was the bad tempered by-product of a brief but turbulent liaison between a vicious Rhodesian Ridgeback and a brutal Catahoula Cur; the latter being a local breed raised to herd and fight wild hogs. Her distinguishing features were powerful shoulders crowned by a ridge of stiff hair along her backbone, dark mottled fur, a milky-white, “glass,” eye, a paranoid disposition, and an all-consuming desire to protect her human family from strangers.

Considering her lineage, Belle was on the small side. That hadn’t kept her from becoming boss dog of the big pack of hounds out at the family’s farm. Thanks to this status, she was a frequent guest at their house in town. While the men in the front yard debated, then moved to another spot and began digging a second hole, Belle was inside her pen in the backyard, barking and snarling with nervous fury while frantically digging her own hole.

As the triumphant front yard crew slipped the diesel soaked cross into their new hole, Belle made good her escape. Stealth not being one of her strong suits, the targets of her intended assault were soon alerted by the sound of loud, angry barks coming around the side of the house and approaching them at a very high rate of speed.

The two men spotted the dark, barking projectile at the same time. It was Floyd's misforutne to be nearest the house. He emitted something resembling a garbled scream, snatched up the post-hole digger and began doing his best to hold off the snarling menace. Darrell Ray splashed on the gas, dug out his lighter, and set the cross afire. If either one realized they hadn’t braced it upright, neither seemed interested in correcting the oversight.

Seeing the cross starting to burn, Dickie Lee cranked his truck and came down to retrieve the work party. Remembering Bullock’s warning about not leaving evidence, Darrell Ray managed to pick up the empty containers without attracting the dog’s attention. Floyd’s occasional yelps made it clear he was having uneven results in his efforts to avoid Belle’s assault. As he fought a desperate, rear-guard holding action, they once again tripped over the hedge and then stumbled back through the ditch to the edge of the road.

Before Dickie Lee could come to a full stop, Darrell Ray threw the empty can and bottle into the truck bed and jumped into the cab. They waited, with some impatience, as Floyd lurched backwards into the cab while trying to deny Belle any more samples of his flesh. Once inside, he yanked in the protective digger. This move sent the handles smashing into the windshield. Ignoring Dickie Lee’s angry protests, Floyd slammed the door shut before Belle could follow him into the already crowded cab.

A glint of light made Darrell Ray turn around and look through the dirty rear window. When he shouted that headlights were approaching, Dickie Lee stopped complaining about his busted windshield and gunned the engine.

It flooded and died.

They had the good luck to be facing downhill. Dickie Lee shifted into neutral and yelled at Darrell Ray and Floyd to get out and push. At that moment, Belle was doing her best to scramble in through the still open passenger window. Darrell Ray and Floyd yelled right back that he should get the hell out and shove himself. Even Dickie Lee could follow their logic and complied. As the oncoming headlights got nearer, the truck began inching its way downhill.

That was when Belle became aware of the new and very vulnerable target of opportunity standing outside the open driver’s door. She raced around behind the tailgate and pounced on Dickie Lee’s unprotected left leg. He responded with a short but intense string of obscenities. Displaying surprising agility for someone with a fresh leg wound, he jumped back behind the wheel and yanked the door shut, just missing Belle’s open jaws and bared teeth.

Shifting into low gear, he released the clutch. The truck backfired, then the motor caught. As they raced away into the night, the cross seemed to give them a slow parting bow that ended with it toppling over onto the grass.

Left behind amidst the exhaust fumes, and shreds of denim, a small-to-medium sized, mixed-breed dog watched the retreating taillights and bayed in savage triumph.

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 03, 2007


This post, like the previous one (FIRST KISS) is an excerpt from a scene in my first novel, A Brief Affair. The aforementioned affair that developed between the kisser and the kissee, is about to experience a major change in its focus.

Your thoughts on how to improve my pitiful prose would be appreciated.

Bayou Bill


by Bill Fullerton

Mark tensed at the familiar sound of Gwen’s footsteps approaching his room. Not for the first time, he flashed back to their blow-up the day before he left town. He still couldn’t understand why she wanted him to write her or why she’d gotten mad and started to cry when he said, no.

Once home, he succumbed to the memory of those tears and sent her a hand printed, three-page letter plus several cards. Despite that capitulation, he wasn’t sure what sort of reception awaited him. When he called last night to tell her he was coming back, she sounded happy and said she'd come over to see him after supper. But who knew what things would be like face-to-face?

All tension vanished the moment Gwen strode into the room. Her bright smile and cheery, “Hi, stranger,” sent a clear signal that his previous postal insensitivity was forgiven.

After a quick kiss, she stepped away from his grasp, pulled off her long monk’s cape and draped it over the back of the bedside chair. It was like watching a present being unwrapped—a very appealing present in a beige, cable-knit sweater, khaki mini-skirt, and brown boots.

He watched as she shook out her short brunette hair. Wispy bangs framed her face with its peach-tinted skin, perfect nose, soft, brown eyes, and very kissable lips. Either she’s gotten better looking, thought Mark, or I’ve missed her more than I realized.

Gwen moved into his arms. "So, did you miss me?"

"Only desperately.” Their lips met, halting conversation.

Afterward, she sighed and laid her head on his shoulder as their bodies became reacquainted. When she opened her eyes, Gwen noticed an unmade bed on the other side of the room.

"You have a roommate?"

"Affirmative. His name is Jessie Johnson and he seems like an okay guy. Says he was a tunnel rat with the 4th Division. He sure looks the part: short, wiry and careful. Went down one tunnel too many and got an eye messed up which is why he's in here."

"Where’s he now?"

"His mother stopped by on her way home. She works at Macy's. They've gone down to the day room to smoke."

"And then they'll come back without warning which, I'm afraid, puts a damper on the reception I had planned for you.”

"Not to worry.” Mark stroked her hair. "They’ll be back for her coat, but then she’s got to leave or miss her train. After that, Jessie's promised to make himself scarce."

"So you two have been plotting, have you?"

"What can I say? Us old beat up 'Nam vets have to stick together."

"Well, in that case, why don't we go out to the lobby for a while? I want to tell you about some stuff that happened while you were gone. And if it’s all the same to you, I'd rather not be interrupted by the return of Jessie and his mother."

A few minutes later, they were outside the ward in a dimly lit sitting area near the elevators. While an occasional person got on or off the elevators, no one came over to intrude on their privacy.

Gwen sat at one end of a well-used green couch. Something told Mark she really did want to talk, not make out. To avoid temptation, he leaned against the edge of the windowsill across from her. He glanced out at the traffic on rain-slick First Avenue and waited. After a moment's hesitation, Gwen cleared her throat and began.

"While you were gone, I broke up with Johnny, for good. He'd started dealing dope, not working at a real job. He knew how I felt about drugs, and why. So I told him we were through, forever, and gave him his ring back.” Her words came out in a series of low, rapid bursts.

After what seemed like an endless silence, she continued. "After crying and feeling sorry for myself, I suddenly realized I'm in love with you. I don't know when it happened, maybe the day you kissed me, but all I want is to be with you, forever. And I know this all sounds crazy, but I love you so much, I'd marry you today if you wanted to."

She fell silent and waited, apparently hoping for some reaction. There was none. Silent and motionless, Mark stared over her head into middle-space, then turned and looked out into the cold, January night, and tried to think of what he should say. She just broke up with Johnny, and yet says she’s ready to marry good old Mark. Not that the idea of marrying Gwen didn’t have its appeal. After all, she was smart, cute, fun to be with, and great in bed.

But something just wasn't right with this picture. It wasn’t a question of her being sincere. There was a guileless honesty in her voice. Still, he wondered if her priority was to marry him or just to get married? Was she in love with him or with some idealized notion of marriage?

"Gwen, I’m not sure you really love me. Maybe you're in love with the idea of being in love. Maybe you haven't gotten over breaking up with Johnny and need me to come in on the rebound. Who knows, you--."

Gwen broke in, "Mark, I'm in love with you, not with some idea. After breaking up with Johnny, it just came to me that I've been in love with you for, I don’t know for how long. But now I know why being with you always made me feel so special and why I've always loved making you feel happy. And I have, haven't I?"

There was a momentary silence, then with the faintest trace of a smile, he said, "Yes, you've made me very happy, both in and out of bed."

The smile left his face. "Look, let me spell this out for you. Like I've said before, I like you, I really do. In fact, I like you a whole lot. But, I don't think, I don't know, if I love you or will ever love anyone again. What's more, I think you're just infatuated, for whatever reason, not with me, but with some sort of dramatic, battle-scarred, soldier-type character I'm supposed to play.”

Mark turned away from the window and began to pace. "I'm not clear on all this myself. But to me, love is trust. Back in 'Nam, in the bush, you learned fast who you could count on, who you could trust. The only problem was your friends, the people you could trust, had a nasty habit of leaving fast and for keeps."

He stopped pacing as his mind focused on other times, other worlds. With a shake of his head, he looked down at Gwen. "Ever since getting back, it's like my emotions have been muted, been numbed. Even with my family or old friends, I sometimes find myself thinking about what it will be like when they're dead, when they've left me, so to speak. It's just..." his words trailed off.

“But Mark, I love you. I would never, could never, leave you."

Mark heard the plaintive note in her voice—could see the concern on her face. But could he ever be sure of her? After all, they’d started dating, and then making love, while she was still engaged to Johnny. Now a few days after dumping him, here she was. "Maybe not," he said, "unless things didn't go your way."

She started to protest, but he changed the subject. "And then there's the reality that I'm a half-blind guy who can't drive a car and hasn't even finished college. In here, I'm one of the few guys under a hundred. But, what would you think of me in the real world? I guess that also bothers me."

"Well, none of that bothers me.”

"No, it doesn't seem to," he admitted, with a half-smile. "I guess that's one of the reasons I like you, Miss Kaplan. That and your great legs."

Gwen smiled but said nothing, just sat in the dim light and stared up at him like a confused and anxious puppy. Hell, it was worse than her crying. "Look, Gwen, I'm sorry to sound like such a jerk. It’s just that, I’m not sure if what you feel for me really is love. As for me, I don’t know if I love you or, like I said, whether I can ever love anyone again."

He paused, and then broke the tense, serious mood. "Now at this point in the proceedings you may be asking yourself, just what in hell does this goober know? That's a fair question. So for what it's worth, here's what little I claim to know. I like you, a whole lot. And I like being with you, a whole lot. And I'd like to keep seeing you, a whole lot."

“Me too,” said Gwen. She stood and pressed her body against his as their lips met. It was a long, languid kiss. As the tip of her tongued darting around inside his mouth, her fingers toyed with the growing bulge inside Mark’s pajamas.

When the kiss ended, she looked into his face. "Well, Mr. Cahill, since that’s the case, I promise that from now on, you’ll be seeing a whole lot more of me, a whole lot of the time."

They returned to Mark's room to find a slender, young black man and a well dressed, middle-aged, black woman leaving. "Mrs. Johnson, Jessie, glad we caught y’all," said Mark. "Mrs. Johnson, I'd like you to meet Gwen Kaplan. She's the nursing student over at Bellevue I told you about who worked here last summer."

Mrs. Johnson gave Gwen a warm smile and extended her hand. "Well, I know you're glad to have this charming young lady coming to visit. Hello, Gwen, I'm Olivia Johnson. You don't happen to know of a nice black student nurse for my Jessie?"

"It's good to meet you, Mrs. Johnson," said Gwen, shaking the delicate hand. "Actually, one of my best friends at school, Ann Elmore, is black. We both worked here last summer. Mark’s met her and says she's cute."

"Fine, fine," said Mrs. Johnson with a chuckle. "Be sure to bring her with you the next time you come over to visit."

The young black man standing behind her sighed with feigned exasperation. Then he smiled at Gwen. "Hi, I'm Jessie. Don't pay any attention to my mother. Since I've gotten back from 'Nam, her only goal in life has been to get me married."

"Well, it would do you a world of good," replied Mrs. Johnson with an indulgent smile.

"Maybe so," said Jessie. "But right now we've got to get you out of here. You’ve already missed the early train."

They all said goodbye and Gwen promised she'd try to get Ann to come over with her sometime. As the Johnson’s headed down the hall, Gwen and Mark walked into his now empty room.

After Mark assumed his usual position on the edge of his bed, Gwen sidled in between his heavily muscled legs. She slipped her hands behind his neck and cuddled close, pressing her breasts against his chest. After a long kiss, she nibbled on his ear and whispered. "Now about that welcome back reception I had planned."

As Gwen’s fingers began the teasing process of opening the fly to his pajamas. Spellbound, Mark watched as she extracted her prize, then looked up at him and smiled. Moments later, all he could see was the back of Gwen’s head, all he could feel was the warm, sweet pressure of her mouth engulfing him. Every welcome back should be this good.

Labels: , , , , ,